By DR. SULLIVAN SMITH
Special to The Vista
As temperatures continue to stay high this summer, more people head to beaches, pools, lakes and out on boats. Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s emergency physicians want everyone to get all the facts regarding unintentional drowning before you end up in the emergency department, or worse.
Every day in the United States, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It ranks as the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States.
“Our area lakes and pools are a lot of fun, but they can turn tragic in the blink of an eye“ says Dr Sullivan Smith, Medical Director of the Cookeville Regional Medical Center Emergency Department. “While it’s impossible to predict and prevent every situation, you can take steps to safely enjoy the water.”
Usually, several factors contribute to a person drowning and obviously not all of them can be controlled. However, steps can be taken to keep a child, and even an adult, as safe as possible when near or in the water.
Here are a few water safety tips:
• Supervise Young Children — They must be watched at all times when near water. It can take only a matter of seconds for a child to accidentally drown when an adult turns away.
• Learn to Swim — Formal swim lessons can protect people, especially young children from drowning.
• Learn CPR — It can take paramedics several minutes to arrive, particularly when you are in a remote area out on a lake. Having CPR skills often times can mean the difference between life and death and permanent brain damage or not. Contact the Carmen Burnette CPR Fund, a local foundation dedicated to teaching CPR, the Red Cross, or your local EMS for information about classes near you.
• Never swim alone — Swim in areas that have lifeguards on duty if possible. Always swim with a buddy and let someone know where you and your buddy are going and when you will be back.
• Avoid Alcohol — Alcohol never makes sense when involved in any activity that could be even a little bit risky. Drinking alcohol while on a boat or while swimming in the water can impair a person’s judgment. Never consume alcohol while supervising children.
• Use Life Jackets — When on a boat, make sure the number of Coast Guard approved life jackets matches the number of passengers and that they are easily accessible.
Even better, wear those life jackets. Young children should have a life vest on at all times when on a boat, or in the water. According to the CDC, potentially half of all boating deaths might be prevented with the proper use of life jackets.
• Air-filled or Foam Toys Are Not Safety Devices — These toys are just that, toys. They are not substitutes for life jackets and are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
Don’t count on them in an emergency.
• Know the Weather Conditions — If thunderstorms, lightning or strong winds roll in, get out of the water and seek shelter immediately.
• Know When Not to Dive– Never dive into shallow water or water where you don’t know the depth or bottom.
Hitting the bottom or perhaps that one big rock, especially head first, can result in serious injuries, paralysis or even death.
• Waves and Rip Currents — If on the beach, watch for warnings about dangerous waves and rip currents.
Rip currents sweep you out to sea and are more common than you think. People drown trying to swim back to shore against the rip current.
If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim toward the shore.
“Many drowning or near drowning cases are preventable. They should never happen in the first place,” said Dr. Smith. “Have some fun this summer. Cool off in the water. Use some common sense, stay alert, and know your surroundings. Stay safe.”
Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department stands ready to see all patients in the region who need emergency medical care. The CRMC Emergency Department sees approximately 55,000 patients annually and is professionally staffed by physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants 24 hours a day, each and every day of the year.
Facts about Drowning
More than 3,500 people died between 2005 and 2009 from unintentional drowning, according to the CDC.
Around 350 additional people die each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.
More than half of drowning victims treated in the ER need further treatment.
Nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage.
Nearly 80 percent of people who die from drowning are male.
Children ages one to four have the highest drowning rate – with most of those drowning incidents occurring in home swimming pools.
For more information on summer safety visitwww.crmchealth.org/summersafety.